Today we interview a former FAA AeroNav Products employee who spent his time with the feds designed and building instrument approaches in the western United States. Pretty cool, eh?
Here's your chance to send us your questions for our guest. What would you like to know?
Here's a brief bio to get you started:
My work with the FAA AeroNav Products organization was primarily with airports in the western U.S., all the mountainous states, including Alaska. This made for some very challenging approach procedure design as you would expect, with terrain issues that were not a problem in most of the rest of the U.S.
I enjoyed this work immensely. For me, it was a perfect combination of math, science, flying, map reading, and trying to make the best possible approach design, which to me meant mostly two things – how low could I get the minimums to be, and could I make it (relatively) easy to fly? I got to work with local airports, users, airlines, ATC, NBAA, and other interested parties daily.
My favorite project by far was also my last major project – the new airport at St George, Utah (SGU). I was given the task of designing all approach and departure procedures out of a brand-new airport – pretty rare these days! St George sits in a valley in southern Utah, with mountains surrounding it. There were very limited ways to bring an airplane into the airport. If you look at the approach charts, you'll see there is an LDA/DME to runway 19 (complete with a glideslope, too). It is actually offset about 7 degrees to the runway centerline, specifically to align with a pass in the mountains to the north (this is why it's an LDA with glideslope, and not labeled an ILS). As you fly down the LDA, you descend below the tops of the mountains just a few miles away! Similarly, the LPV approach to runway 1 is offset about 3 degrees, to allow a 300-ft DA, the best we could get here. The VOR/DME-A is a circling approach only because the terrain in final was too high to allow a safe descent, even though it's almost straight-in to the runway. The kind of tradeoffs here were typical – “if I bring the final approach course over a few degrees, it could get lower minimums, but then this other hill is a problem and might affect the missed approach” – that kind of thing. It was a challenging balancing act of all the factors involved, like a big puzzle that had to be solved!
As for departures, the two RNAV departures are reasonably straightforward, though they do require a higher than standard climb gradient to clear terrain. But the JITKA ONE (OBSTACLE), which needed to be designed for non-RNAV-equipped aircraft and also to keep the climb gradient as low as possible, is [tricky]. It’s perfectly safe, just a little complicated. A good training DP! You fly runway heading until an altitude, turn back to the VOR on the field, enter a holding pattern for your climb, then head out a radial to intercept the nearby airway. Almost as bad as the MONTROSE TWO (OBSTACLE) at Montrose, Colorado, which I also developed – turn to a heading, intercept a radial outbound from the VOR, climb to an altitude, turn around direct back to the VOR, and climb in a holding pattern until 11000, then on course.
I also worked various projects at larger airports, like Seattle, Anchorage, and Salt Lake City, remote places like Barrow and many tiny Alaskan airports, and several of the new RNAV (RNP) procedures. Look at the RNAV (RNP) RWY 12 at Wenatchee, Washington (EAT) – it draws a big circle around a nearby mountain during the descent, then continues, curving, down a river valley before rolling out on a 4.5 nm final. Fun stuff!
Like I said, I really enjoyed my work there.
So don't miss out on this opportunity to ask those burning instrument approach procedure questions you've always wanted to know! Flown a procedure and wondered, “What the heck is this?” – email us and we'll ask our guest.
Just Contact Us to email your questions.
Until next time…
Fly Smart, Fly Safe,